Riding on the beach?
Well, summer vacation is almost here, and I am in the mood to take Winchester to the beach sometime. But, I have never ridden him on the beach, let alone on a trail (although I am sacking him out to things you would find on a trail).
What advice do you have?
How can I prepare my horse and myself for this?
How should I behave towards beach-goers?
What about loose dogs?
Should I use a synthetic saddle/bridle?
What should I bring with me?
Is it better to go with another rider or with a group since my horse has never seen the ocean?
The best thing I can say about preparation is "start early". It's possible to just take the horse to the beach and teach him to cope with it as you go on your ride, but you have to be skilled enough that you can handle almost anything. That's a big part of being successful at riding outside. Knowing that you have the skills and the composure to cope with anything that happens. The beach can be an overwhelming environment for a horse to deal with; their senses are being flooded with a thousand stimuli.
When I was learning how to start horses for trail riding and I wasn't yet a good enough hand to just get on and go I would take them on foot for walks. It's not exactly the same for their education as riding them out, but it was a good intermediate step between the arena and the trail. Once they were nice and quiet, responsive consistently no matter where I took them it was a piece of cake to get on and ride.
As for riding on the beach, I like to make huge circles as I go along and look at my tracks in the sand. The more symmetrical the circle is, the more I know that my horse is tuned into and listening to me. I'd alternate between riding circles and straight lines, do some galloping, all kinds of different stuff.
Lastly, I found out that it was a good idea to use caution when introducing the horse to the water. Surprising things can happen when that tide rushes up to their feet for the first time and they've never experienced it before!
First, make sure your horse is used to kids and dogs just running up to him because there's a lot of that going on at the beach.
Some horses want to freak out their first time seeing the ocean in action. They just don't like the combination of wind, surf and sand. So what I like to do is start them out opposite side of the dunes. That way they get a feel for the sand. Then slowly work them closer to where the surf action can be heard but not seen. Only then do I take them, at a distance, to where they can actually see the surf. What I would not do is take them into the surf for their first couple trips, it really can be to much for them until they are used to everything else.
The waves around their feet do kinda freak them out and when the water rushes back it makes them almost do a "vertigo" kinda thing. Biscuit was leaning over and had to side step to right himself when the water when back!!!
The very first time I laid eyes on Biscuit was at the beach! The man who trained him was riding him and I barely even registered him other than he was a palomino so he'd been to the beach a few times before I took him. Right after I bought him Barry and I took him to the beach. He was a good boy but we rode where there was little traffic as the road is washed out from a hurricane back in 1980 and no people where down there at the time.
Two weeks later I took him back with a group and he was just fine. Go slow...let him look around - you may have to back him into the water if you want him to experience that. It depends on how the tides are!
As for people...keep a good grip on him if you are unsure of how he will react. We went in December and were riding down the beach and a huge BOOM went off. Some kid blew off a huge firework. :shock: You never know what can go on down at the beach! You may want to be sure and ride with someone who has been there before. Best of luck and can't wait to see your pictures. It is too hot to ride at the beach here in the summer - we ride there in December!!
Any tack is fine - just clean it afterwards - I have biothane now but didn't the times I have been to the beach.
Anything can happen at the beach. My husband's thoroughbred adjusted beautifully. My racking horse never really got to like the incoming foam.
He really wanted to avoid that evil foam! It was easier to just stay out of the water completely. The only thing that really threw him though was kites! Kids flying kites on the beach that swooped and dived just completely unnerved him!
We eventually stopped all riding on the beach. Even though our horses were as kid-safe as a horse can be (They are STILL horses!) it was just too much anxiety for us with kids running up to us all the time from all directions including directly behind us! Today's kids don't know spit about horses and neither do their parents. While it's fun to introduce kids to horses, it's not my main reason for riding. Give me the trails with no kids anyday.
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